# My view on the anthropic principle (written April 17th, 2022)

(Note: This no longer reflects my view on the anthropic principle but I'm leaving it up anyway.)

Fer had been driving for six hours, and Mero was tired. The sun had gone down at some point, and now their little car seemed like an island in the dark. From his leaning against the back windowsill, he could see Fer's hands held on the wheel at an exact ten and two, the barren country road ahead of them starkly illuminated by bright headlight, the rear windshield showing nothing but black. A little island of light it was indeed.

Mero's eyelids were heavy. Who was he to resist their demands? He rested against the window and closed his eyes.

An indeterminate amount of time passed, trapped in this one single instance, this one single moment, the car engine purring at the same volume, the window vibrating with consistent pulses, no words spoken, his eyesight dark, his eyes shut, his brain awake. Mero did his sleep duties correctly; he blanked his mind, embraced himself in the dark, capitulated to the demands of forgetting, and waited, and waited. Yet no sleep was to be had.

Eventually, Mero gave up. He reclaimed his thoughts, and he remembered what he was thinking before the period of dark.

"Say, Fer."

"Mm-hmmm?" Fer's voice was average at the best of times, but he had perfected his acknowledgement sound precisely. A deep, rich baritone, resting for the perfect interlude, only to come back just as rich as before. It felt like a thick, warm bath.

"Why are we here?"

"We're here because you wanted to drive to Senu Rene, remember?"

A pause. Mero indeed had wanted to drive to Senu Rene. Why it always had to be the awake-brain making the decisions at the detriment of the sleep-brain, Mero did not know, but a previous iteration of him had definitely wanted to go to Senu Rene. Was that the question he was asking, though? No, it was not.

"No, I don't mean that."

"Well, then?"

"I mean here in the abstract sense, in the sense of two individuals on Earth. Why are we here? A coincidence of chances, right? I mean, for us to be here, I had to make the decision to go to Senu Rene. Before that, I had to have heard of Senu Rene; before that, I had to have met you; before that, I had to have lived in that neighbourhood; before that, I had to do so many things that cannot be counted. Each decision I have made has amounted to this, I could have taken so many turns, not gotten into my highschool, and I wouldn't be here at all. What are the chances of that?"

Mero took a second to draw breath.

"I mean, that's not even counting all the other stuff. Life existing and all of that. What are the chances humans exist at all? Multicellular life developing? Organic contraptions forming from a primordial soup? The fine structure constant being close enough to 1/137 for particles to interact the way they do? So many coincidences. The chance is miniscule, one in ten to the hundreds to the hundreds, right? How does that make any sense? Living in such an improbable world?" He sped up as he talked. "Don't tell me you never thought of any of that?"

A silence. Mero opened his eyes. He had too much energy to sleep anyway.

Fer spoke.

"Well, isn't it obvious?"

"I'm sorry? Obvious?"

"Have you heard of the anthropic principle?"

Mero took a moment to think. It certainly sounded familiar.

"No, I don't think so. Why?"

"Let me show you why this is not so surprising."

A dramatic pause. Fer loved those, Mero less so.

"Here's a question. You're questioning your existence. Who are you? Who is 'you' referring to?"

"Uhhh...? Myself? This person sitting right here, in the back of their own car?"

"Yes, exactly, right? The person sitting in this car, right here. Do you see why yet?"

Mero certainly had to admit that he did not. "No. What is this about?"

"Well, you're asking questions about your existence, right? You're going on about how it's such a low chance, how improbable it is, etcetera etcetera. But you're making a mistake. You're using the word 'I', and that word 'I' presupposes a lot of things."

"Like what?"

"Like being the person in the back of this car questioning that very question. Consider the following. Let's say somewhere along the way you didn't get into your highschool. Would you be considering this question right now?"

"The 'do I exist' question? I certainly hope so."

"Not that question, but this exact question we are discussing. The one about your chances of getting here, in the back of your car driving to Senu Rene."

"No? I mean, I wouldn't even consider it the remotest possibility of occurring. I'm not sure you understood what I said."

"No, I did understand. Don't you see? You only asked that question because you are here. If you weren't here, you wouldn't have asked that question."

"And so what? The probability is still miniscule."

"Not at all! The chance of you asking this question, given that you are in the scenario posed by the question, is extremely close to 1. Don't you see? You're stating claims like 'the fine structure constant is close to 1/137'. What would happen if you lived in a universe where the fine structure constant was actually closer to 1/140? Then you would have said that instead, and hence it would have been a different question! You're only asking the question because you exist here in the first place!"

A pause. Fer needed to draw breath too. Mero forgot that sometimes.

"Same thing with the question of life. 'Why does life exist?' one may ask. 'Why did the universe turn out the way it is to support life, given the miniscule chances of the fundamental constants and physical laws lining up the way they have?' they may ask. But the question simply cannot be asked without life to ask it! Hence the question is complete nonsense. Of course life exists, you're asking the question after all!"

Mero considered this. "This isn't an explanation, though."

"It doesn't have to be! The question itself is nonsense, since its asking presupposes the conditions that it is questioning. I question, therefore I."

"I mean... I guess?"

"You see? It is obvious."

"If you meant obvious in the sense that it is an utterly useless answer to a technical fact about the question, then yes, it was obvious."

"It's technical? No, because the fact was fundamental to the question. Look, let's consider something else. Look at the moon. Why is it grey?"

Mero looked out the window. The moon was, indeed, still grey.

"Because it's made of grey rock and lit by the sun?"

"But why's it made of grey rock?"

"Because of impacts and Earth's rock composition?"

"Yes, and we can keep asking these, right? But suppose the moon was actually brown. Then I would have asked a different question!"

"I mean, yes. But... this is not exactly useful. Can't you use this to explain away basically any low-probability event? 'Well, I mean, if it hadn't happened, then you wouldn't have asked the question. Hur hur, it's so gosh darned obvious.'"

"I mean, yes, I suppose it could be. Why is that a problem?"

"Because low-probability events sometimes have actual causes, rather than just ones that come from hindsight? Like, the sky is blue, and that's because of a whole host of facts that make air blue in large quantities."

"No, look, it's not a useless answer. Like, consider this. Let's say a squirrel runs across the road and goes under the tires in the next 60 seconds. We're on highway 5AC to Sanu Rene, and there is nothing outside but bushes and the occasional tree, and nothing crosses the road because they don't like it here and there are better ways to cross. We haven't even seen a squirrel for the past six hours. Now, I'm asking this question because-"

A loud CRUNCH was heard under the wheels.

Mero smirked. Nothing like a no directly from Mother Nature herself.
Fer actually had to pause for once.

"Okay. It might have not been a squirrel."

"You're only considering that because it happened."